I say “good fortune” for two reasons.
First, while making the run to Stockholm and back looked pretty meshugga on paper — I’d be getting back to the States with about a 36-hour turnaround to BEA in New York — the dash actually proved to be an amazing breather in a laughably busy spring season. There was a speakers’ dinner in a jewel-box castle built by the crown as a viewing stand for ice skating. There was a design-hotel room in a former barracks, centuries old. There were engaged, focused co-speakers and conferees ready with lively exchanges of views. And there was a long, long supper outdoors in the all-but-endless evening light, the kind of moment when colleagues become friends. I left richer than when I went in.
Second, the trip had a sort of parallel journey running alongside it, something peculiar on the wing of each 767 I jumped onto: it was as if I’d flown briefly away from the turmoil of the industry! the industry! and into what I seriously can only truthfully describe as the “talent” of what we’re on about here in writing and publishing.
In a curious coincidence, Suzannah Windsor Freeman’s piece “Do I Have Talent?” You’re Asking the Wrong Question ran here at Writer Unboxed as I flew back. And there it was: The Talent Question. Like The Intelligence Question, it’s one I find fascinating because it scares away so many people so needlessly.
Mind you, Freeman’s evocation of a special difficulty women can have with this point is powerful, I won’t raise a hand against it. Based in a Psychology Today article from Heidi Grant Halvorson, it posits the issue as a gender-based dilemma in which boys are socially indoctrinated to believe they can do more to better themselves than girls are. I don’t doubt for a moment that most of this concept is woefully viable.
I know from reading Louann Brizendine‘s marvelous reductio-ad-duct-tape The Male Brain that the kinetic nature of boys’ development matches the kind of “try harder” instruction given to them — Halvorson refers to this — and I can understand how this may translate for guys into a “you can do it” message.
But we tussle with The Talent Question on a much roomier, broader plain in publishing and writing than gender-based considerations give us.
On that wider field of things that weird us out, a mention of talent gets everybody confused and defensive, just as a mention of intelligence does. So needlessly. [Read more…]